For the last couple of summers, instead of taking one big summer vacation, once a month we rent a car for a long weekend and drive somewhere nearby. We have discovered so many amazing natural treasures within a day's drive of San Francisco.
This month we went to Owen's Valley
and saw Devil's Postpile, Panam Crater, Alabama Hills, and (on a whim?!) drove back home across the entire length of Yosemite. Seriously amazing.full-sized images here
When I first started this sweater
I googled the name of the yarn color, basalt. I learned about a spectacular form of basalt, called columnar basalt that is lava that cracks into hexagons as it cools. This is what lead me to name my sweater Fractured.
When I discovered that we had a columnar basalt formation within a day's drive, I knew we had to go see it. That formation is a National Monument called Devils Postpile
. We hiked out to it as the sun was coming up. Such a great way to start the day!
The formation is striking from below, where you can see the columns rising up ~60 feet into the sky. Then you can hike up to the top of the pile to see the hexagon tops of the columns. Bonus: there is a spectacular view of the valley below from the top.
Black bears are common at Devils Postpile, but luckily we didn't see any since we had enough black bear sightings
on last month's hike to last us a lifetime.
This is a public domain photo of the Panum Craterfrom overhead.full-sized images herePanum Crater
is an inactive volcano that is around 650-years-old. You read that right, 650-years-old. That means this volcano was erupting around the time the bubonic plague was devastating Europe.
Please note, if you plan on visiting, there is a weather cycle here near Mono Lake which brings 30-mile-an-hour winds around 3 PM. Ask me how I know ... haha. We hiked the entire rim trail (that outer circle in the top photo), part of the crater between the rim and the plug, and the plug. All in 30-mile-an-hour winds. When I wasn't taking phontos, I was literally holding my sun hat with both hands to keep it on. My arms were more sore than my legs after that hike!
The rim is made of loose pumice rocks about the size of ping pong balls. The plug is made of majestic spires of obsidian. Both pumice and obsidian are the same rock cooled at different speeds. In my photos above are some chunks of striped pumice *and* obsidian. So beautiful The floor of the plug is full of broken shards of obsidian so it sounds like you're hiking through broken glass ... and I guess you kind of are.full-sized images hereAlabama Hills
is right outside of Lone Pine, CA. It's otherwordly! In fact, it was used as a set for other planets in the movie Star Trek Generations and the show Firefly. Over 150 movies and a dozen TV shows have been filmed here.
The day we visited, we saw a couple other cars and two people. It was quiet and beautiful. We hiked and climbed and marveled. As you move through the rock formations, they morph and change. So many hidden wonders!full-sized images here
On our normal route home, we pass through the city Lee Vining which happens to be where the "back" entrance of Yosemite on 120. We stopped to get drinks at the gas station and thought, "Hey, why not drive back through Yosemite National Park?"
I'd never been to Yosemite and Andrew went once about 16 years ago. We'd been avoiding it because you hear horror stories of people in 3-hour car queues just to get into parking lots. But it didn't seem like there were a lot of people driving in and out of the 120 intersection with 395, so we went ahead and drove in.
It was a beautiful day. Andrew convinced me to stop on a couple heart-attack-inducing turn offs that had us perched on the edge of cliffs. We stopped in Yosemite Valley and went for a couple hikes to see Half Dome, Mirror Lake (which had almost no water), and El Capitan. Hands down, it was the best drive home from a trip, ever!